A Travellerspoint blog

Am I not turtley enough for the turtle club?

Pick the old movie reference... (that's for you Brit!) Also turtles are very relevant to this entry, by the by.

sunny 29 °C

Ladies and gents, I've been sitting on this one for a while. Not normally one to procrastinate from blogging, the months since I last wrote have simply disappeared into a whirlwind of oh-look-the-tradewinds-finally-kicked-in and wow-you've-been-here-three-months-and-haven't-actually-taken-any-pictures-to-share-with-anyone-except-of-baked-goods. Luckily, over the last couple of weeks a few things have happened to remedy this- Mona came to visit and took oodles of photos which she has authorised me to share at my leisure, and I took a solid week off work to enjoy her visit and then follow it with diving on the Great Barrier Reef for a few days.

With not too many stories to tell, this entry will be mostly photos- which, let's be honest, is what y'all are here for anyway. In an update-type vein, my time here in Cairns is coming to an end- my parents will be here in 4 sleeps (yes I'm counting down) and then I'll be back in Vic just two weeks after that- hopefully the weather is warming up down there in readiness. After a scant week at home manically packing and repacking and probably also sleeping a lot, I'm flying out to Nepal for 7 weeks- a well-needed foray into mountains before another summer in Melbtown. I've been indulging with much online gear shopping- assembling a birthday-like pile of packages to await me at home. Tis hard to shop for -10 degree sleeping bags while lolling about in a sundress- I think the Himalaya are going to be a massive shock to my I'll-keep-this-29-degree-winter-thanks-very-much body.

So, to the turtles! After a wonderful weekend of frolicking in salt water and sunbathing, slurping pad thai and swimming under waterfalls (and because it is Mona and I, non-stop talking), we ventured out to Fitzroy Island before Mona flew back to Melbourne. Fitzroy is a beautiful continental island, surrounded by reef and covered in rainforest. We snorkelled, wandered, flippered along behind a turtle and chased down a nemo or two.

With a taste for this whole holidaying-venture, immediately after Mona's departure I booked two days diving on the outer reef. Since I came back my students could be forgiven for thinking I run a dive company and not a kite school- as I'm urging everyone quite emphatically to get out there and see it for themselves. In two days I swam with sharks, hunted with giant trevally, oogled turtles and families of nemos, was suddenly surrounded by maori wrasse and made particular friends with one named Wally. Not only was there an abundance of amazing reef life, the boat I stayed on was well-stocked with great food and great company.

Here an assortment of photos: some Sunday wave session SUP pics, then Mona's visit and finally my time on the reef.

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Mona and Lucy's Great Adventure:
Crystal Cascades- awesome freshwater swimming hole sans crocs. Bonus!
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Fitzroy Island:
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Lucy Goes To The Reef:
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Lots of love and have-you-been-to-the-reef-yet-because-oh-wow-you-really-must-absolutely-go...
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Posted by lucyfbaird 16.09.2014 03:26 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Achtung! Crocodiles May Be Present In These Waters.

sunny 28 °C

Just as birds are wont to migrate during the winter months, I have done the same and fled Melbourne's bitter cold for the tropics. This entry comes to you from sunny, sunny Cairns, in the far north of Queensland. Days are a balmy 28 degrees, and my lone jumper that I brought with me remains balled in the back of my cupboard.

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I am working managing a kite school up here- bit more work than simply instructing, but my brain is enjoying the workout (also I get to feel super professional with a work diary, and work folder, and work phone... I'm pushing for a work jet ski at the moment). The trade winds are just starting to kick in, and it's been fun watching all the kiters come out of the woodwork and seeing the beach transform into an explosion of brightly-coloured kites flitting this way and that. I'm planning on staying up here through September, and if anyone feels like a tropical getaway they can find me in my office: a hammock slung between coconut palms.

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As my 'office' location might suggest, life up here is incredibly relaxed and lazy- when not in my hammock I can be found trying (key word there) to learn to surf on a Stand Up Paddle board- there's a great bunch of guys up here who roll up once the tide is low enough to generate some nice rolling sets just off the point at the end of my road, and what they pull off with style and grace I am fumbling through with many thorough dumpings. If there is no wind a ride through the sugar cane plantations is always on the cards, though the many, many, MANY signs warning of crocodiles living in the area are certainly enough to keep my pace nice and sprightly.

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I'm living about 2 minutes walk from the beach- when I leave my window open at night I can hear the waves (and then the kookaburras at the crack of dawn), with the former being soothing and the latter being pillow-over-the-ears worthy. My suburb is north of Cairns and super sleepy- I'm getting used to walking in the middle of the road a-la-country Victoria, and riding around without a helmet and without shoes. Also, it is named Yorkeys Knob. Yep.

And that, friends, is about it from me! I hope you are all healthy and happy.

Until next time!

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Posted by lucyfbaird 27.06.2014 00:56 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish.

OF COURSE THESE ARE TOFU FISH.

all seasons in one day 20 °C

Unlike many (/most) of my previous entries, I am not writing this while backpacking on some unsuspecting cafe's wifi, or holed up in a library hogging the powerpoint as I charge a myriad of appliances, or even while attempting to snuggle (I think snuggle, he thinks OH GOOD I can CHEW YOUR HAND) with the beautiful blue heeler pup of Grove St, Nelson- I am actually, strangely, happily, briefly, kicking around in the ole' hometown of Yarrawonga, Victoria, Australia. I'm heading to Tassie next week which I'm sure will warrant some photos and musings all of its own, but this entry is still all about the land of the long white cloud.
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I spent my final three weeks (though I didn't know they were final at the time- helllooo last minute flight bookings) traipsing around the south island- armed with kilos of peanut butter, hiking boots, a rain jacket (oh west coast, your reputation precedes you) and my increasingly-beaten-up camera, I tore right down the west coast from Nelson and back up the east coast, stopping at some amazing campsites, some jaw-droppingly scenic vistas, and really, wherever the hell I felt like it.
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The first hike I took on was on the recommendation of a wonderful friend from Australia, Rose- who, after I slogged and puffed my way up to the hut, I found out had done this particular hike 3 or 4 times. For fitness. Heading up to Mt Brown Hut, I was surrounded by cloud- quite a claustrophobic experience- as I followed the ridge line with almost zero visibility, I had a great time (read: scared myself silly) imagining what dramatic cliff drop could be merely metres either side of my narrow path. That night, the clouds lifted and I sleeping-bag-hopped my way out onto the deck to marvel at the stars and then the stunning sunrise.
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Continuing down the west coast, I marvelled at the gnarly, gnarly surf- while Australia has its own justly deserved reputation for some crazy-big surf, New Zealand's west coast is just as chaotic- shore-dumping, log-wielding monsters crashed into rocky beaches, and I soon understood while I'd seen no surfers braving the wilds of the Tasman Sea.
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I breezed through the tourist mecca of Queenstown and straight out to the beginning of the Rees-Dart Track: a five-day hike recommended to me by an incredibly fit German who swayed me with promises of glaciers and relatively few fellow hikers. Sold!
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The hike was as body-breaking yet as beautiful as promised- I lucked out with fantastic weather and many of the huts to myself. The track is varied, studded with ready-made bouquets of brilliant yellow flowers and sweet alpine streams.
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Walking out to the Dart Glacier was a definite highlight, though it was more walking in to the glacier- so distracted by the other glaciers meandering down well above me, I wasn't paying too much attention to the apparently debris filled valley in front of my until a large chunk of ice crashed down metres in front of me as if to say, 'um, hello, that glacier you're looking for? That'd be me. Right here. Yup'
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Another highly-rated-by-the-German feature of this track was the recent appearance of a lake- caused by a landslip blocking the Dart River (which flows from the Dart Glacier that I played hide and seek with) a large part of the last day of the track is now underwater, drowned by eerie blue water and providing a muddy reminder that New Zealand is not the poised-on-the-centre-of-a-tectonic-plate-stable-as-stable country that Australia is.
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My other top pick for getting amongst it alpine style is the Mt Cook Alpine National Park- with the crashing of glaciers providing a constant and somewhat disturbing soundtrack, and Mt Cook itself soaring over surrounding peaks, I relished every second camping in its shadow. I took a day to walk up to Mueller Hut, a striking rusty red against the brown rocks and blue blue sky. After a sun-drenched lunch on the deck, I scrambled (literally) up to the summit of Mt Ollivier, which was Edmund Hillary's first major climb- so watch out Everest, I'm on your trail.
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While I more or less stayed well-clear of cities (which, given my lack of showers and laundry, I'm sure the general populace was pretty glad about) I did dip briefly into Christchurch- interested to see how the city was faring for myself. There are some awesome initiatives popping up- relishing the opportunity to pretty much remake the cbd from scratch. I wandered into a fruit shop where instead of paying with money, you pay with time- I waited two minutes for a locally-grown apple (it was based on food miles- the longer the food had travelled, the longer you had to wait), rued not having an iPhone so I could activate the outdoor dance stage where you plug in, put your music on and lo and behold lights are a flashin' and you got yourself a street disco, and loved happening upon awesome street art around every corner. That being said, the roads are still mostly closed, and for a Saturday morning all was strangely still and sans-people.
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Happily close to Christchurch is Castle Hill- perhaps the best bouldering in New Zealand. Despite lacking crash mats or a mate to spot me, I still had fun clambouring around and onto boulders, basking in the sun and watching paragliders soar far above me.
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Dear friends, I shall leave you here (pretty sure they should put maximum length restrictions on these blogs, or at least on mine) and shall hope to see many of you in person soon!

Love,
Lucy
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Posted by lucyfbaird 19.04.2014 22:14 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Summertime...

...And the living's easy.

all seasons in one day 20 °C

Hold onto your hats, folks- this one’s set to be a long’un.
I’ve been ever so slack with my writing recently, and therefore have accrued quite a backlog of bit ands bobs jotted in a ratty climbing guide, dot points hastily written on the back of my hand (only to cause head scratching and confused keening when I later see the smeared inky mess post-ocean frolic) and masses upon masses upon hard-drive-overloading-masses of photos. Here not be dragons, but instead tales of sunrise hikes, starlit blues jammin’, climbs climbed and sights seen. And also a fair whack of don’t-you-wish-you-were-here photos.
You’ve been warned.

My conception of time has changed recently- I’ve abandoned days and dates in favour of sunsets and sunrises. Since finishing up work about a month ago, I’ve fully given myself over to my gypsy alter-ego (ok, let’s be honest, she isn’t that alter) and have relished being able to get out for weeks on end- hence my somewhat sporadic email replies and oft-missed phone calls. Apologies, and all that jazz. I sit here today with that oh-so-distinctive-campfire-scent still curled in my hair, held in place by a least half the ocean’s salt (conservative estimate)- the remnants of a multi-day sea kayaking adventure in Marlborough Sounds region, a mere few hours to the east(ish(maybe)) of Nelson. I’m saving that story for last though, as it includes photos of dolphins and I know that’ll keep the crowds intrigued until the end.

After kitting myself out with all the latest and greatest in outdoors technology (read: kathmandu splurg), my housemate, a friend and I took to the (steep) hills of Nelson Lakes National Park. After oohing and aahing at the clear, deep blue waters of Lake Rotoiti, we clambered up the demanding Robert Ridge Route, trying to distract ourselves from our burning thighs with (somewhat out of breath) musical numbers and musings on why, exactly, we thought this was a good idea in the first place. The view from the top silenced us (as did the hefty amounts of chocolate we were shoving in our gobs) and we even managed to enjoy the next 6 or so hours until we reached the descent to Lake Angelus and Angelus Hut. Not to be deterred from trying out my new toys, I was the lone camper- which I delighted in as I pitched tent by the lake, admiring my rest stop for the night. The walk out the next day was challenging and long- starting with a steep descent down a scree slope, followed by many hours wandering down a valley before traipsing a decent third of the perimeter of the lake. However, the scenery was stunning, the river wonderfully refreshing as a swim stop, and the company grand.

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Lake Rotoiti

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Robert Ridge Route

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The stunning alpine Lake Angelus

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My camping spot!

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Ali and I got up at 4am to one of the clearest, dark, star-studded skies I have ever seen. We hiked back up to the ridge to find the valleys full of cloud, and the lake pretending it was a mirror.

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Heading back down the valley the next day.

The same friend and I (the wonderful, wonderful Gem) tackled the Cable Bay Walkway- a stunning track that runs from just outside of Nelson to Cable Bay, starting at a beach and meandering through pastures and forest to finish high on a ridge overlooking the breath-taking vista of Cable Bay. We shared our walk with goats, sheep, cows, a cranky old bull and about a million sandflies. A spontaneous mid-afternoon decision, we didn’t give ourselves many hours before sunset but we made it back in time for the last half hour or so to be bathed in that wonderful pre-sunset golden glow, which makes everything look warm and inviting- even cranky old bulls. AND I could justify eating my weight in a delicious bean-spinach-toast-avocado concoction afterwards, so THAT was an achievement all on its own.

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The start of the walkway.

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It may have taken me all summer, but I finally made it over to Paynes Ford, Takaka, for some of the best sport climbing, nay, THE best sport climbing, that New Zealand has to offer. (Yeah, that’s right, I said it. Haters, come at me). My housemate (the wonderful, wonderful Ali) and I loaded up his van with rope and quickdraws, harnesses and helmets and set off over the hill to the stomping grounds of Golden Bays finest hippies and climbing bums- Hangdog Camp. Hangdog is a place that people come expecting to stay mere days, and emerge, blinking, into the sunlight of three weeks later with tendonitis, no skin left on their fingers and a dazed, happy grin on their faces. As we were checking in, the manager told us to pay when we left- with a cheeky glint to his eye that told us it probably wouldn’t be when we were expecting. Cue two weeks of amazing climbing, river swims, vegan goodies from the nearby Takaka, blues and Britney Spears sing-a-longs by the fire (don’t judge) and becoming a part of the furniture of and the family that is Hangdog camp. I made some amazing friends, and met some amazing people with stories to match. I never took my camera to the crags with me, so instead I offer some photos of the graffiti in the toilets- which I could’ve (ahem did) spend long enough reading to provoke concern in anybody waiting outside.

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Hangdog Herb Garden

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Takaka, in a mural.

Finally, dolphins. And penguins. And jellyfish. And starfish. And other fish.
My most recent get-out-amongst-it was the aforementioned sea kayaking venture- with another wonderful Ali and his wonderful (I’m starting to think I don’t know any other adjectives for describing my friends) gal Emma, I took to the high seas and pillaged (read: peacefully plodded) around Tennyson Inlet and Pelorus Sound for 4 days earlier this week. We started from Gem’s bach in Cissy Bay, which is at the end of the windiest road ever (fact). We island-hopped and bay-hugged, marvelling at the (somewhat disconcerting (seriously I almost got vertigo)) clarity of the water and the mish-mash of tropical forest and beachy scrub that clung to the sheer cliffs, studded with random patches of pine plantation (say wha?) and big, cleared areas for grazing. Our campsites were water access only, and we were the only inhabitants both nights- so of course we went wild... with a small campfire on the beach and cards. A definite highlight was on the second morning, when a pod of around 60 dolphins (finally, she gets to the dolphins) was spotted on the horizon- we sprinted to catch them, losing feeling in arms and running out of breakfast, to find them actually coming towards us! They stopped to play around the kayaks, darting under and around and provoking squealing from all parties (and also I may or may not have stopped breathing), and doing all their very best tricks- the classic jump, the body-slam-into-classically-jumping-buddy, and the jump-to-back-flop that was particularly favoured by a stylish dolphin sporting seaweed draped around his/her fin. When they tired of our lack of tricks in response they took off for the other side of the bay... leaving us to realise we’d paddled with them alllllll the way back to where we’d started that morning. A coffee stop was immediately called for, and heartily seconded and thirded. Credit as noted for the following photos goes to Ali and Emma- they managed to keep breathing during the dolphin-scapades to get some amazing photos, and also just generally rock at the whole photo thing more than yours truly. (Emma gets amazing pictures of shags, Lucy photographs a leaf on the beach. Ali gets awesome pics that-tell-stories of the girls navigating, Lucy finds pretty shells and preserves the memory of them forever on film.)

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Heading into Cissy Bay [photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]

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Setting out!

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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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Girls navigating.
[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]

Dolphins:
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]

The final day:
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]

As I finish this up, the sun is doin’ its thang and setting- which is getting earlier and earlier with the approaching winter. Makes for a pretty picture from my driveway though!

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Next week I’m off South- I’ll be back to a sporadic internet presence for the next month and a half as I start to wind up my time here across the ditch (yes, yes, maybe maybe maybe I’ll be back in Aus around Mayish. Month at Arapiles, anyone? Just putting that ole’ idea out there...). I’m looking to return to Paynes and bust some more fingers before I leave, and also check out the much-lauded coffee scene of Wellington (preparing myself before diving (enthusiastically) back into Melbourne’s), as well as rounding out my South Island travels with a sunrise Milford Sound kayak, some more thigh-burning hikes, and whatever create-your-own-adventures I can squeeze in before the cold drives me home (or to the snow).

Until next time, amigos! (That university Spanish hasn’t gone to waste, no sirree). I’ll attempt to keep my next entry under multi-volume tome length, though I make no promises.

Love, and starlit blues-
Lucy.

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Posted by lucyfbaird 14.03.2014 00:13 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

41.2708° S, 173.2839° E

Nelson, New Zealand.

sunny 24 °C

I want to share with you all some exciting news-

I have EYEBROWS! Now, to your normal brown haired, haz-brows beauty, I understand this is not news at all but a daily trial of plucking and pruning, but for me, dear reader, a ginger with blonde as blonde brows and lashes, my sudden acquisition of two definite arches above my eyes is indeed blog-worthy.

What ridiculous fad has she embraced, I can hear you worrying. Has the henna of days past made a resurgence? Did someone take liberties with a sharpie while she slept? Oh good god, she hasn't HOME TINTED them has she?! You know, I wouldn't put it past her...

The truth is as follows. After just over a month here in Nelson, my face is so brown, and eyebrows so bleached blonde, that lo and behold they appeared all on their lonesome, allowing me to raise my eyebrows incredulously, or crinkle them in laughter, or raise them skyward in surprise.

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Nelson is a truly wonderful beachside town reminiscent of many such towns at home in Aus. With a population of about 46,000 people plus the many campervan wielding tourists, it surprises me how small it really feels- riding my bike along the beach to work is a game of recognising cars of people I've met and spotting friends out paddle boarding. Settling in here was easy and fuss-free, a process hurried along by the incredibly welcoming community of kiters, bikers, climbers, trampers, yogis- you name it, if it's outdoorsy there is bound to be someone stopping by for coffee on their way to give it a shot. So far I've managed to faceplant, sideplant, and buttplant going off a kicker at a cable park, capsized a boat learning to sail, capsized a paddle board getting a bit big for my boots and trying pivot turns, relished getting chalk under my fingernails at the climbing gym and drooled over the map of an extensive cave system meandering down from Mt Arthur.

My foray into the Abel Tasman well and truly explained what all the fuss was about- I got a bit carried away with my camera and took about a billion photos. I've culled them down for you- these were all taken my very first weekend here, when I road tripped up to Wainui Bay for a kiting weekend away.

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A group of us from Nelson headed up on Friday, enjoying the windy drive over Takaka Hill into 'hippy territory'- let the fisherman pants run free! Takaka is well-known for some of the best sport climbing in the country at Paynes Ford, and also for the many alternate lifestyle seekers who call the upper Abel Tasman home. It is certainly isolated, which I think does nothing but add to its charm.

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When the wind didn't kick in on Saturday we went for a kayak around some wee islands, and enjoyed watching seals play around the rocks, with seabirds periodically diving down for a feed. After a well-earned lunch I headed off on the Abel Tasman Track, with the promise of a nudist beach and some amazing views. I didn't find the nudist beach, but I did find my own private beach, where I sunned and swam and frolicked before tramping back through the hills to dinner, starlight and fire poi.

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We also were lucky enough to end up on Jacques Cousteau's old boat- which has been converted into a coffee shop! Being in a rural area as we were, I was hesitant in asking for soy in my iced coffee- only to have the eccentric lion-haired owner laugh, and offer hemp milk, brazil nut milk, almond milk- and if I gave him five minutes, he could whip up some hazelnut milk for me.

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Kiting has lead to some other great adventures- we ended up in Marahau (special mention to A.Box and her bathtubs under the stars- I'll be heading back to check that out for sure) after a day tripping around to the Riwaka Resurgence (where the Riwaka river resurfaces after flowing under Takaka Hill) and were lucky enough to have wind- the abundance of amazing kitable beaches around here astounds me.

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The Riwaka Resurgence was also awesome- freezing cold oh-my-god-I-think-my-body-just-went-into-shock-how-do-I-breathe-again-?! water forced squeals and screams as we cannonballed into Crystal Pool, only staying in long enough to appreciate the clarity of the pools and then leaping back onto rocks to sun ourselves like seals.

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A hike closer to home, Nelson boasts to be the very centre of New Zealand- not strictly true, but a fun hike up the hill a hop skip and jump from mine.

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This is the river behind my house- compare the sunny and the Middle-Earthesque mist on a rare cloudy day.

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As I'm sure you've gathered, I couldn't be happier with my perch for the summer. I've been lucky enough to already have some cherished visitors both from Auckland and Aus, I've made some amazing friends (including a blue heeler pup that lives belongs to my housemate), found all sorts of activities to keep me busy and happy. It is a rare delight to not have to worry about leaving- I haven't booked any tickets from here, so can let my plans gel as naturally as I like. Harwood's Hole certainly looms in my future (give it a google image search), as does some kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds and hopefully some good ole multi-day getting-lost-in-the-wild tramps.

A very Merry Christmas to everyone- whether it is hot and sunny or snowing, I hope everyone has a wonderful day with family and friends or blue heeler pups and adventures.

Peace, Lucy.

Posted by lucyfbaird 19.12.2013 12:48 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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